After a period of decline from 2008 to 2012 when the overall rate of reported congenital syphilis (CS) decreased from 10.5 to 8.4 cases per 100,000 live births, rates increased by 38 percent from 2012 to 2014 (total cases increased from 334 to 458 cases), according to a new Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
This increase parallels a national increase in primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis among women during the same time period (22 percent increase during 2012-2014).
The resurgence of CS points to numerous missed opportunities to prevent mother-to-infant transmission. Of 458 CS cases in 2014, 22 percent of mothers received no prenatal care. Of women with at least one prenatal visit, 43 percent received no treatment for syphilis – although nearly half of these women were positively diagnosed – and 15 percent of mothers were never tested for syphilis during their pregnancy.
A child born with syphilis may face major health problems, or even death. In 2014, 25 infants were stillborn and eight infants died within 30 days of delivery as a result of CS. Protecting newborns from CS requires addressing barriers to obtaining quality prenatal care, including STD screening. Additionally, timely reporting of CS and syphilis cases among women of reproductive age, instituting more thorough prenatal screening practices when warranted, and ensuring timely and appropriate treatment of identified cases are vital measures needed to prevent CS.